Puerto Princesa City

Puerto Princesa establishes arboretum to protect nature, support wildlife

Gerardo C. Reyes Jr.

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Puerto Princesa establishes arboretum to protect nature, support wildlife

TREE-PLANTING. Puerto Princesa locals participate in a tree-planting activity on February 14, 2024.

Gerardo C. Reyes

Puerto Princesa City establishes an arboretum within the city’s nature park which will house both endemic and native trees

PALAWAN, Philippines – Sweltering temperatures during dry months prompted sustainability projects in Puerto Princesa City supporting birds and wildlife, emphasizing the interdependence of humans and nature.

Puerto Princesa City, through its City Environment and Natural Resources Office (City ENRO) established an arboretum, a botanical collection of trees within the city’s nature park near the New City Hall which will house both endemic and native trees. The establishment of this arboretum started during a yearly event that nurtures Balayong trees within the city’s Balayong People’s Park back in July 2023.

Carlo Gomez, City Environment and Natural Resources Officer, said the arboretum will serve as a center for research and a bioreserve that will potentially attract visitors, students, and researchers. 

Gomez emphasized that their office focused on planting endemic, native, or fruit-bearing trees because it supports biodiversity and wildlife. 

These include the Inyam tree, the fruit of which is a favorite food of birds. Narra, the Philippines’ national tree, also attracts plenty of insects for pollination due to its fragrant flowers and leaves. Banaba and Bani trees too, with their flowers and canopies attracted pollinators like bees.

The Kamuning tree is also found in the arboretum. Kamuning is known scientifically as Murraya paniculata and is considered a medicinal plant used for gas pains, sprain, bone pain, and snake bites. In Malaysia, its leaves are widely used as food flavor additives for cuisine, specifically in preparing meat, fish, and soup and flavor curries. 

Endemic trees are those only found in Palawan, including the endemic ironwood species known as Palawan Mangkono (Xanthostemon speciosus). 

Other trees that Puerto Princesa City ENRO is prioritizing were native trees known in their local names as Bakawan Gubat, Agoho, Alalod, Balayong, Balite, Batino, Bignay, Bayok, Bogo, Burawis, Bunog, Dao, Ipil, Iniol, Gatasan, Duguan, Kalantas, Kasoy, Lapnisan, Langka, Lanite, Lumaraw  Malabagtik, Malakatmon, Malabakawan, Mulawin, Pangi, Pasi, Putian, Red Nato, Repetek, Sahing, Siar, Talisay, Talisay gubat, Taluto, Ururingin, Tanabag, White Nato, among others, said Forester Sheryl Ampas-Paed.

Senior Environmental Management Specialist (SEMS) Forester Zorina C. Arellano, who heads City ENRO’s Forest Management Division said that native trees are linked to the well-being of insects, birds, and wildlife species that naturally occur in an area, thus it is important to consider native trees compared to exotic and introduced trees. 

She explained that native trees, especially fruiting trees support wildlife and biodiversity like mammals, avian species, bees, and others that form part of the biodiversity. Native trees should be planted and not an invasive introduced species, which might limit biodiversity. Invasive species will dominate an area and cause other trees to vanish.

“Native trees are their habitats, and these birds and wildlife are dependent on them,” she said. 

Protecting the birds, too

Environmental Management Specialist Myla Adriano said that in order to intensify public awareness campaigns they conducted puppet shows in schools and the barangays as part of raising student’s awareness of the importance of birds and wildlife.

She emphasized the need to protect wildlife habitats as they are the animals’ sources of food, For instance, the endemic Palawan hornbill (Anthracoceros marchei) is a large forest bird that is only found in Palawan. Also endemic in Palawan is the iconic Palawan Peacock Pheasant, locally known as the tandikan. 

She explained that birds also take seeds and disperse them through their droppings, therefore bringing plants back to ecosystems that have been destroyed.

Gerald Opiala, a government employee and a landscape designer explained that in landscaping it is important to incorporate water which is vital to birds and wildlife’s existence. 

Landscape with a bird bath or any water features supports wildlife, especially birds and other avian species affected by dry weather and scarcity of water. 

“Meron bird bath kasi ang mga ibon ay nag-su-suffer during drought kaya may mitigation measures tayo. Yun ang support natin sa wildlife natin lalo na sa mga ibon. Ito yung obligation po natin sa nature kasi itong bird bath ay iniinuman din ng mga birds kasi nahihirapan yan sila kung may drought lalo na dito sa urban areas,” he explained. (There’s a bird bath because birds suffer during drought and these are some mitigation measures. This is our support to our wildlife and birds. This is our obligation to nature because birds drink water in our bird baths, especially during droughts in urban areas)

Birds and avian species play an important role in our ecosystem, emphasized Gomez who is also a professional birder and bird photographer, being an official of the Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines (WBPP).  

He explained that they are indicators of a healthy environment.

“Ang mga ibon ay nagbibigay ng important barometer na healthy pa ang ating environment (Birds give an important barometer of whether the environment is healthy or not),” City ENRO Gomez said. – Rappler.com

Gerardo C. Reyes Jr. is a community journalist at Palawan Daily News and is an Aries Rufo journalism fellow of Rappler for 2023-2024.

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